SARA profile: Investing in candidate engagement a winner

At the 2021 SEEK Annual Recruitment Awards (SARAs), u&u Recruitment partners were recognised in two categories: Excellence in Candidate Engagement and Recruitment Consultant of the Year, won by business manager Kate Vuleta.

The awards acknowledge a dedicated approach to candidate engagement and people-centred service, says director Andrea McDonald.

What does it mean to you to win these awards?

Andrea: One of the key foundations that the business was built on is wanting to drive amazing candidate experience. If we can have the best candidate experience then we're going to have the deepest talent pockets – which, ultimately, is the problem we're solving for our clients. It also means a lot to us to be recognised for connecting with our purpose: to change lives by connecting potential with opportunity.

Kate: I've been recruiting in the HR space for 15 years and it's just lovely to have my long career in the industry recognised by the award. The feedback from the market has been overwhelming and hugely supportive of this recognition.

What are the strengths of your agency and what makes you unique?

Andrea: We legitimately have all of our consultants across our four offices connected with our values and how those values play out on the candidate experience. We’ve actively invested in candidate engagement. We have someone who is dedicated to that function and we invest in the area by having dedicated roles. We've mapped all of our candidate experience touch points and then looked at how we give a candidate an exceptional experience at every stage in the process.

There's been all these great developments in our industry around technologies that have made things more efficient, but sometimes it can make a very personal process a very impersonal experience. So, a lot of our investment has been in providing an experience that feels more personal and puts respect back into the job search process, because people's careers are incredibly important to them.

Which initiatives have you delivered that support the success of the wider recruitment industry?

Kate: We genuinely do the right thing by people. We refer candidates to roles even if we're not engaged to recruit them. We think about what's in the best interests of the candidate and take a longer-term view to their career and our relationship with them, rather than saying we can’t place them right now and moving on.

It’s our aim to support people on their recruitment journey, which will give them a great u&u experience, regardless of whether we place them or not, and collectively raise the opinion of recruitment agencies in their mind.

Andrea: At the height of the pandemic, we looked at how we could add value to candidates during a particularly stressful time, not just from a job search perspective but to support them in general. We ran a series of webinars with as many as 200 participants in each session, sharing insights on the market and tips on how to be successful when the market was a little bit tighter.

We also produced a COVID career handbook that could be given to any candidate, whether they were successful or not, that contained information and tips on their job search and the employment market. We communicated more regularly with all of our contractors, including through regular newsletters, to help them manage their health and wellbeing and feel like a supported part of the u&u family.

Are there any specific challenges you’ve faced in the last year?

Kate: It’s been a roller coaster navigating the initial constriction of the job market and the boom that we're now in. With the tightness of candidate activity, it’s been about adjusting our strategies across the business and keeping our team resilient to new challenges that keep emerging, whether it be another lockdown or a shift in the market.

One of the biggest issues is setting clear expectations for clients of where the market is at. When the market turned there was a lot of education happening with our clients. We created industry-specific networks with our clients and regularly met and shared information, insights and analytics with them to explain what was happening in the market. We also made sure they were cognisant of the fact that it might not be as simple or straightforward a recruitment process as it was pre-COVID.

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